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How to Tell if Milk Is Bad?

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Milk is considered a ‘complete food’ by various nutritionists all over the world. This is because it is packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, good fats, and carbohydrates that are essential in a human’s body. However, we all know that spoiled milk can result in an upset stomach.

Even if the expiration date tells you that your milk is safe to consume until the said date, there are various factors that can cause your milk to spoil before its time.

In this article, we are going to discuss the six ways how to tell if the milk is bad, as well as some questions that are frequently asked about spoiled milk.

How Can I Check to See if My Milk Is Bad?

1. Check the expiration date

woman with mask checking expiration date buying milk in grocery store

Milk can last for 7 days past its sell-by date if it is stored properly. However, if it is left out for a certain period of time, there is a high chance that it is already bad once it reaches its date.

It is also worth noting that the shelf life of milk depends on the amount of fat and lactose that are present in it.

For example, lactose-free and fat-free milk can last up to 10 days past its expiration date. On the other hand, whole milk may only last for up to 5 days.

2. Smell the milk

One of the easiest ways to determine if the milk has gone bad is to smell it.

Milk that is still safe to drink should not have a sour or any unpleasant odor. However, if it has an unusual odor, it is likely that it’s already spoiled. If you’re unsure, it is best not to use it anymore.

3. Check the consistency and texture of the milk

Bottle and glass with milk

In general, milk should be thin and smooth in texture.

If it already has chunks or lumps, it is a clear sign that the milk is already spoiled and not safe for consumption. You can check your milk’s texture by pouring a small amount into the glass. If it has a yogurt or cottage cheese consistency, then it is better to dispose of it.

Although cream and whole milk have a thicker consistency than fresh and skim milk, they should still be smooth. Otherwise, discard it.

4. Check the color of the milk

Pure, fresh milk should have a pearly white color. If it is already yellow in color, or its color changes from the time you purchased it, it is highly likely that the milk has gone bad.

You can check the milk’s color by pouring some of it into a transparent or clear glass and holding it up to the light. Inspect it closely. It should not have a yellow or dingy color.

5. Check if the milk was left out at room temperature for too long

If the milk has not reached its expiration date but is already showing signs of spoilage, it might be because it is not being stored properly. Milk should not sit out for very long at 39°F (4°C) or above. It is best to put the milk back into the refrigerator and keep it cold when not in use.

6. Microwave the milk to check if it is okay to use

If you have a microwave, you can test if the milk is still good to use by pouring some on the microwaveable glass and heating up the milk in the microwave for a minute. Then, take it out and observe if it has any lumps, or if the color has changed. If it does, then it is best not to consume it.

Woman having bad stomach ache after drinking glass of milk

What happens if you drink bad milk?

If you drink a small quantity of spoiled milk, it may cause no symptoms or just minor symptoms that will eventually go away on their own. Some of these include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea

However, consuming spoiled raw, unpasteurized milk can cause more serious concerns, such as food poisoning. This is because raw milk contains pathogens, such as:

  • E. coli
  • Listeria
  • Campylobacter
  • Salmonella
  • Cryptosporidium

If you think that you consumed spoiled milk, it is best to spit it out instead of putting your health at risk.

How long does it take for milk to spoil?

The shelf life of milk depends on its type.

Powdered milk takes a while to go bad. In fact, it can be stored indefinitely according to the USDA.

On the other hand, it is recommended to consume fresh milk within three days after purchasing it.

It is important to know that there are several factors that affect the milk’s life. Some of the factors you need to consider are the milk’s exposure to sunlight, the way it is stored, and its expiration date.

What does spoiled milk smell like?

Spoiled milk has a sour, acidic, and unpleasant smell.

Meanwhile, fresh milk does not usually have any strong odor. If your milk smells weird, it is best to not consume it.

Can you pour milk down the drain?

Woman pouring milk in glass in the kitchen

It is not recommended to pour milk down the drain. This is because milk is one of the highest pollutant substances.

Pouring milk down the drain can cause harmful impacts on the environment. Because the bacteria that feed on spoiled milk take in a high amount of oxygen, they can leave less air for aquatic organisms.

The same is true for cheese, yogurt, butter, and other dairy products.

How do you get rid of spoiled milk?

Instead of throwing out spoiled milk, or sour milk, there are other things you can do to make it useful. Here are some ways to successfully get rid of spoiled milk:

1. Use sour milk to bake

There are many recipes that use sour milk to bake. You can try using sour milk to make scones, pancakes, breads, and other baked goods. Not only do you get to discard your sour milk properly, but you also create something delightful and useful out of it!

Don’t worry about your baked goods smelling or tasting sour. The baking process will eliminate all the unpleasant odor from the sour milk.

2. Use sour milk to make your dishes a bit creamier

Same with baking, using sour milk to cook dishes will remove any bad taste and smell. Add a splash of sour milk to your soup or stews to make it creamier.

Just add it gradually though to ensure that the sour milk does not become too overpowering.

3. Use sour milk to tenderize steaks

The lactic acid that is present in milk is perfect for tenderizing meat.

To use, soak the meat in sour milk before cooking. You can also use it as part of the marinade.

4. Use sour milk on your face

milk products as milk, sour clotted milk and cream on bordo cloth and white background

Aside from tenderizing meat, lactic acid is also great in making your skin smoother, firmer, and glowing. Use sour milk by diluting it with water and then rubbing it gently on your skin.

If you can’t get used to the smell of sour milk, you can add drops of essential oil.

5. Use sour milk to make your plants healthier

It may not be advisable for humans to drink sour milk, but plants like it.

You can dilute sour milk with water and then pour it into your garden to give your plants added calcium which helps them grow stronger.


As long as it is properly stored, milk can still be safely consumed days after its expiration date. Keep in mind that the freshness and shelf life of milk does not only depend on what’s written on the carton but the way you store it plays an important role as well.

If you want to make sure that the milk is still fresh, you can have another family member or a roommate help you out. But, if you are still doubting whether or not to drink it, it is best to discard it properly in some of the ways mentioned above.